The National Museum show addresses the issue of indigenous creativity and identity

Folk crafts and handicrafts called artesanía In Mexico, it is an important part of the country’s identity. However, the question of how to present them can be controversial.

First, we may distinguish them from fine arts. This is a problem all over the world, especially for ornaments inspired by local culture (named “folk art” in many works), as the two concepts overlap so much. I am.

In Mexico, nationality and ethnicity artesanía — That doesn’t apply to art.Foreign artists may have a successful career in Mexico, but no matter how real the work is made by foreigners and outsiders. artesaníaIt is generally not accepted as a “Mexican” by other craftsmen or collectors.

Add to this issue of identity and politics artesanía Created by one of Mexico’s 68 federal government-approved indigenous peoples.

This year, Mexico City Fine Arts Palace opened an exhibition on creative expression by the indigenous community of Mexico. Arte de los pueblos de México, Disrupcione sindígenas (Mexico people’s art, indigenous turmoil). The venue and timing are important.

A 19th-century cross showing indigenous influences on decorations from the collection of the Pueblo de Guanajuato Museum.

why? First of all, this building is Mexico’s most famous art venue. The event will also take place 100 years after the promotion of Mexican muralists such as Roberto Montenegro and Dr. Atl. artesanía As an integral part of Mexico’s identity — and a radical idea.

Before that, everything Artesania It had no cultural or economic value and was considered a sign of Mexico’s retreat.

Arte de los pueblos The exhibition will feature indigenous peoples and their creative work, with a timeline that begins shortly before the Mexican Revolution and continues to the promotion of Mexican identity, the subsequent indigenous movements, and finally contemporary academic thinking about indigenous art. Follow the evolution of thinking about.

Approximately 500 works from 59 different public and private collections are rented, and the selection of exhibits ranges from tools and textiles to “classical” representations of visual arts such as paintings and sculptures. It covers everything.

But instead of stating that all creative works by indigenous peoples are equal to those of non-indigenous peoples, the exhibition uses the artistic or aesthetic concepts of “Europe” or “Western” to judge indigenous creations. It is assumed that. Inappropriate.

The exhibition breaks the line between “artist” and “craftsman”. One reason is that there is an indigenous culture that doesn’t even have a word for the concept of “Europe” in art and aesthetics, says Juan Rafael Coronel Rivera, the main curator of the exhibition.

Tajeew by Mixe artist Octavio Aguilar
“Tajëëw” is by Oaxaca’s Mihe artist Octavio Aguilar. Tajëëw was the snake god, one of the two Mihe twin god brothers.

So instead, we need to look at the works in this exhibition from a different perspective. It emphasizes “true” works that belong to culture.

According to Coronel, works that fit this definition are created “inside the culture” and the objects have cultural value not only for sale but also for the community. He goes on to say: [mestizo] Does not belong to any particular culture. “

However, considering all of these, the choice of exhibition venue is strange.

Mexico City is home to the National Museum of Japanese History. The famous Folk Art Museum is also just a few blocks from the Palace of Fine Arts Palace.

The most obvious reason for this location is that the building is very famous and attracts more visitors. However, the choice of place seems to reinforce the post-revolutionary idea of ​​equating folk crafts with “real” art to give them worthy respect.

Still, that’s not really bad. The exhibits have detailed texts explaining academic concepts at the entrance of each hall by Octavio Murillo of the National Institute of Indigenous Peoples, but the concept of “Indigenous folk art is art” fascinates people.

I must admit that I am not satisfied with the idea of ​​bringing together all indigenous cultures in this way. Some indigenous peoples may not understand “art” or “aesthetics” as they do in the West, but in that sense there are certainly indigenous cultures that have “art”. A glance at the murals and sculptures created by Olmecs, Maya and Mexica proves that.

Nahua masks and ceremonial items
Masks and other ceremonial items from various Nahua communities in central Mexico.

However, I think that such a way of thinking disappeared in 1521.

Creativity applies to the production of practical items such as clothing and pottery, as indigenous communities often had to strive to survive for centuries and to this day. With the rise of the tourism industry, it is also being applied to the sale of ornaments. After all, the equivalence of “fine” art and “folk” art remains, especially in indigenous cultures, but its legitimacy is changing.

In this exhibition, we will judge the works using only the concept of indigenous culture itself. However, there are two problems with this.

First, indigenous peoples are very different from other human beings, assuming that the idea of ​​”art” and “aesthetics” is too foreign and strange for Spanish and English speakers. increase. This returns the indigenous culture to the “mysterious” category. It’s a clear and complex culture that has been driven into something new. It also brings together too many cultures with very different languages ​​and history into a kind of homogenized whole.

There is a problem with the idealistic basis of the exhibition, which seeks to maintain the uniqueness of each culture while promoting the creative expression of indigenous peoples as part of Mexico for impartiality. There is probably no perfect way to do this.

Leigh Thelmadatter arrived in Mexico 18 years ago and fell in love with the land and culture, especially its handicrafts and arts.She is the author of Mexican Cartoneria: Paper, Paste, Fiesta (Schiffer 2019).Her cultural column is displayed regularly Mexico News Daily.. The National Museum show addresses the issue of indigenous creativity and identity

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